FAME, the musical production, will no doubt live forever so long as there exist people who remember the name.
The show at Port Alfred High School featured a minimalist set comprising an armada of guitars, a drum set and bleachers; an eccentric ensemble of 80s costumes; and a cast of young performers dying to reach that high note in their budding careers – each one a Carmen Diaz in their own right.
The show was, as is ever the case with Fame, completely taken over by Carmen Diaz’s (portrayed to excellence by Nwabisa Pikelela), deep narrative which weaves through the production.
Director and cast-member Monica Strydom, who facilitates drama teaching at the school, definitely cast well enough to tell a convincing story of young love, risk-taking, ambition and passion – using an ambitious and driven crew of young performers. In particular, the roles of Serena Katz and Nick Piazza (portrayed by PAHS pupils Britney Hawkins and Adam Nolte respectively) were beautifully casted by actors who were born for those two roles.
One actor whose light will surely grow from strength to strength is pupil Tinashe Nazawanga, who portrays Jose Vegas – a dancer who only wants to dance. He and Tyrone Jackson (portrayed by Luvuyo Gadu) are pivotal Dance-Major characters who aren’t so much into school as they are into dancing – their reasons for living.
In a harrowing scene, Miss Sherman (portrayed by Strydom) strikes Tyrone Jackson across the face – leaving only the echo of a well-delivered slap reverberating against the walls in the vaguely lit school hall; a classical scene re-enacted most well.
Any production of Fame is only as good as its Schlomo Metzenbaum – arguably the sole level-headed and destined-to-make-it character in the entire production. Ross Kantor is another example of an actor born for a legendary role. The relationship between Schlomo and Carmen Diaz is one of two people understanding one another – who accept each other’s good and bad qualities without condition.
Carmen loves Schlomo’s talent, and Schlomo loves how Carmen brings out the best of his own with her voice and charisma. The chemistry and undeniable sense of camaraderie these two characters shared in through the portrayal of Pikelela and Kantor was a definite highlight, which pointed to some astute casting being done by Strydom.
According to Strydom, the production preparation period took six months.
“It’s an experience,” she said. “It’s hard work, and very rewarding.”
Strydom, who studied drama at the University of Pretoria, is a truly talented singer and has very few (if any) shy bones in her being when she is on stage.
This counts as one of PAHS’s best productions through the years, and will without a doubt be remembered.
“The exuberance of youth is always an inspiration to me,” said headmaster Clive Pearson at the end of the opening night, which was a great success.